Why do we throw stuffed animals at figure skaters?

With all the drama the doping scandal Around 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, all eyes are on the Olympic ice. And for those who don’t follow the sport regularly, some of its weirder traditions might raise some eyebrows. What’s the problem, for example, with the hundreds of stuffed animals raining down on the rink after each skater’s performance?

Turns out there’s actually a pretty handy explanation for why skating fans throw teddy bears and other stuffed toys at competitors: they’re soft enough to be thrown down the ice without hurting them. damage and without causing danger to the safety of skaters.

Throwing things on the ice hasn’t always been the norm. Like NBC Sports reported in 2015, skaters were receiving gifts directly from fans who sought to show their appreciation, but this practice eventually ceased after it began causing long delays between performances.

“You would walk around, and you would probably take two to three minutes, and then greet anybody who gave you a rose or something,” 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie told NBC. “People wouldn’t throw them away. They were standing at the edge of the barrier, and then the skater walked by and had this meet and greet. Based on that, it was taking too long.

The flowers, although soft enough not to damage the ice, were banned by the United States in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11 over fears that someone seeking to harm athletes might put traces of anthrax on them. But there are plenty of other, more likely reasons for the ban, including the fact that clumps tend to smash when they hit the ice, creating a mess that takes too long to clean up. Staples from bouquets also have the potential to pop out, causing danger on the ice.

“Sept. 11 made the US Figure Skating Assn. fast-track a decision it was already going to make,” said Larry Kriwanek, chairman of the Los Angeles 2002 US Championships organizing committee. It was just a matter of when.”

So yes, stuffed animals do make sense to some degree, but there’s something that always feels a little weird and scary in practice. Isn’t it a little infantilizing to give children’s toys to teens and young adults in competition? (Reminder: No adult really wants a teddy bear.) These are elite athletes who already struggle to be taken seriously due to their age and the often theatrical nature of their sport. Why do we throw them gifts at everythingnot to mention the ones they almost certainly don’t want?

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